Introducing Red Sea Monasteries
The Coptic monasteries of St Anthony and St Paul are Egypt’s and Christianity’s oldest monasteries, and are among the holiest sites in the Coptic faith. In fact, the establishment of the religious community of St Anthony’s, hidden in the barren cliffs of the Eastern Desert, marks the beginning of the Christian monastic tradition.
If you’re at all interested in Egypt’s lengthy Christian history, both monasteries make for fascinating and inspiring visits, and the surrounding desert scenery is simply breathtaking. And, depending on where you’re coming from, the Red Sea monasteries are a refreshing change of scene from the hassles and noise of Cairo and the Nile Valley, or the package tourism and rampant commercialism of the coastline.
The two monasteries are only about 25km apart but thanks to the cliffs and plateau of Gebel al-Galala al-Qibliya (which lies between 900m and 1300m above sea level), the distance between them by road is around 85km.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, the easiest way to visit the monasteries is to join an organised tour from Cairo or Hurghada (any hotel or travel agency can organise these). It’s also possible to join a pilgrimage group from Cairo – the best way to arrange this is by enquiring at local Coptic churches.